Datafication is the breaking down of a seemingly fluid subject into points of data, and it’s all the rage these days. Sports teams are inventing new statistics to quantify the abilities of players in specific game situations. Television and movie executives run focus groups to tweak and massage the next big hit. Online advertisers examine your browsing history to ascertain your demographics and likely buying preferences.
At Ford, datafication has long been applied to the way that the company approaches interior design. For years, Ford’s quality interiors resulted from worldwide studies where customers tested various parts, documenting their preferences, which influenced future design choices.
But quality can be difficult to express in a concrete, data-driven way. “I like this material more,” or “This button feels too slippery” are statements, but it is hard for a person to enumerate why exactly either of those is true with a number.
Without measurable data, further improvement becomes difficult after a certain point. That’s why the process of producing the perfect interior at Ford has gone futuristic, thanks to a robot named RUTH.
RUTH stands for Robotized Unit for Tactility and Haptics, which basically means that RUTH is a feeling robot. But don’t worry about a robot uprising: RUTH doesn’t feel in the emotional sense, but in the touching, grabbing, and pressing sense.
RUTH allows engineers to quantify vehicle characteristics such as softness, roughness, temperature, hardness and comfort. This helps Ford tailor each vehicle interior to the exact specifications that are most pleasing to customers, rather than just making an educated guess.
RUTH is involved from start to finish to assure optimal interior quality. Fabric and material samples are premeasured by RUTH, and then customer test studies are conducted. After the results are tallied, RUTH supplies the data which lets designers implement the most preferred option into mass production. In other words, quality is no longer a guessing game.
This is just one example of the innovative ways Ford designers are approaching their job. Take a few minutes and learn about how your car goes from a doodle to your driveway, and then check out the secret lab that lets Ford ensure your car looks great day or night.
What do you think about RUTH, and the datafied way Ford is approaching interior design? Let us know in the comments below!